OK, now that there are allegations of misconduct around 34-year-old teacher's aide Abbiejane Swogger, I wanna know: How come there seems to be such a rash of cases in which women teachers are accused of having sex with adolescent students?
And yes, because I am a walking cliché, I must repeat the oft-asked query: Why didn't this happen when I was going to school in the 1970s?
Experts will tell you molestation is molestation -- no matter who the perpetrator or the victims is. But we appear to be witnessing a phenomenon we have not fully grasped. Are young boys horribly damaged by these encounters, or are they simply living out an adolescent fantasy and then moving on?
The problem is there is no definitive study on whether teacher/student sex messes with girls' heads more than boys'. You can't get anybody to say anything other than what is politically correct, because no one wants to be perceived as condoning any type of inappropriate contact between students and teachers -- male or female. That's why I admire Dr. Paul Friday, chief of clinical psychology at UPMC Shadyside, who says, "No, I don't think young boys will necessarily be scarred for life by sex with a female teacher. I don't think they're going to get post-traumatic stress disorder."
Dr. Friday acknowledges a sexual experience of this kind could be awful for a teen-age boy, but thinks they have at least one thing going for them. The ill effects of such an encounter are likely to be worse for a girl than a boy because, "Let's face it, we live in a sexist society," and a girl will get a lot more grief for it from peers and others.
Dr. Friday is concerned that a 15-year-old who has sex with an older teacher is becoming way too sexually active way too soon. "I hope they use a condom," he said.
But the good doctor says that from what he could determine, there's no definitive evidence of a trend indicating more women teachers are suddenly preying on young boys. Overall, more male teachers are still preying on female students, according to his research.
So maybe it just seems like this is a trend because these incidents are getting extra publicity now. But Jesus, doesn't it seem like it's happening every other day? Swogger, of New Kensington, violated the cardinal rule of accused perverts: When there are rumors circulating all around school that you're having sex with friends of your 15-year-old son, it's probably not a good idea to grant interviews when reporters come at you with a microphone or a notebook.
For instance, she told reporters that she was in a motel room, and that there were four 15-year-olds there -- but says she didn't see any sexual activity, and if something happened they must have done it "discreetly," so she didn't notice. I've always found it's difficult not to notice someone having sex in the same room, but maybe my sexual antenna is more finely tuned than Swogger's (who, for the record, completely denies giving anyone's sexual antenna a tune-up).
It takes all kinds, as they say. Swogger is a former exotic dancer in her 30s. Former teacher Beth Ann Chester, of Moon, by comparison, was 26, married, and did not appear to be a danger to society, at the time she was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old student in a car outside a sporting activity.
What motivates these women? The same thing that motivates male offenders? Desire for revenge for all those years when sexual harassment was mostly the other way around? A psychologist analyzing former South Carolina middle-school teacher Allena Ward, convicting of having sex with five teen-age male students, said Ward's sexual disorder results from her being "very childlike," something the shrink blames on Ward's strict, small-town upbringing. So hicks from the sticks who can't grow up are the new dangerous predators?
Meantime, Abbiejane Swogger has been doing an exotic dance trying to control damage from rumors she was having sex with her son's friends. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has explained, "The police finding the boys in Room 107 of New Kensington's Clarion Inn Hotel after spending the night there with her will only fuel those rumors, [Swogger] acknowledged."
She's a sharp cookie, that one.